STEPHENVILLE — The brisk north winds Saturday morning frustrated hitters and chilled fans, but it helped Trey Horton’s pitching.
The Goldthwaite Eagles clinched their Class A bi-district series with an 11-1 win over the Cross Plains Buffaloes at Tarleton State’s Cecil Ballow Baseball Complex as Horton pitched a five-inning complete game.
“It did a bunch of weird stuff with the ball,” Horton said of the wind, which was accompanied by 10 a.m. first-pitch temperatures in the upper-40s. “It made the ball move a lot more than usual. I think it kept them (Cross Plains batters) off balance because the ball wasn’t coming at them so straight.”
Goldthwaite, the District 14-A runner-up, won its seventh straight game Saturday, following Friday’s 10-3 win over Cross Plains in the series opener. The Eagles (14-9) earned an area round matchup against Bosqueville (13-5-1), which enjoyed a first-round bye. Goldthwaite and Bosqueville will play a best-of-three series at 7 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday (if necessary) at Gatesville.
Cross Plains, the third-place finisher in District 13-A, finished 8-9.
With the north wind blowing into the batters’ faces Saturday, most fly balls didn’t carry well and held up in the wind long enough to be caught. One of the few exceptions was Wade Clifton’s two-run triple to the right field wall that scored Cory Baker and Clay Phillips and ended the game in the bottom of the fifth because of the 10-run rule.
“We’re just trying to go out there and have some fun and not lose,” Clifton said of the Eagles’ hot streak that includes wins over Granger, Thorndale and Sonora. “Now that it counts, there’s no losing or you go home.
“Our confidence level is a whole lot better now. It took a while for the guys coming out of basketball (which included six position starters) to come around. Baseball’s not a sport where you go out and just start hitting and pitching. The team has to have some time to come together.”
Clifton finished 4-for-4 Saturday with four RBIs and two runs scored. In addition to his game-ending triple, the second baseman stroked a two-out, two-RBI single in the fourth that extended the Eagles’ lead to 4-1.
Cross Plains took a 1-0 lead in the first when Ashton Yates reached base on Goldthwaite’s only error and eventually scored on Mitchell Gibbs’ single. After that, Horton retired eight straight Buffaloes until Gibbs singled again in the fourth. Overall, Horton allowed four singles and struck out seven. He also delivered a two-run single, then scored during a four-run fourth inning when Goldthwaite stretched its lead to 9-1.
“With the wind, you either had to hit the ball on the ground or hit low line drives to keep the ball out of the air,” Horton said, switching to the hitters’ perspective.
Phillips added three singles and three runs for Goldthwaite, including a two-out RBI-single in the second that broke a 1-1 tie. Allen Wheeler and Cody Ford had Cross Plains’ other hits, but the Buffaloes were hurt by four errors.